Czechs seek to strengthen their ME e-presence
A business delegation from the Czech Republic is currently visiting Lebanon, marketing the e-banking software and high-tech industry that have aided in making the former communist state into a European Union candidate.
“The Czech Republic is the number one Internet user in the former eastern bloc and Lebanon is the number one user in the Middle East. It’s only natural to do business together,” remarked Karel Muzikar, president of Foundation Comenius Prague, a non-profit group that helped propel the Czech economy towards a free market.
The seven-person Czech team for the week-long visit to Lebanon, signaled that more delegations plan to visit Lebanon in the future, the Lebanon Daily Star reported. “More delegations will be coming, because Lebanese businessmen are flexible and reasonably aggressive. In some ways they’re better than the Czechs,” Muzikar said.
The Czechs are seeking to strengthen their “e-presence” in the Middle East. “We’re targeting small and medium-sized Lebanese banks who are looking for cheap and efficient internet-based banking systems,” announced Petr Eisler, managing director of Merlin, a computer software firm.
According to a recent PriceWaterhouse Coopers study on B2B e-commerce in the Czech Republic, the country could see total transactions reaching 8 billion crowns by 2003. The study suggested, however, that the nation must improve payment securities as well as infrastructure and legal framework.
Czech exports to Lebanon reached $45 million in 1999 and were just below $20 million in the first half of this year. Foodstuffs comprise approximately 60 percent of Czech exports to Lebanon, which have declined by 5 to 10 percent over the past two years due to a recession.
“Still, very few people in the Czech Republic know about Lebanon’s beauty and potential, because nothing positive about Lebanon ever makes its way there. Real life is overshadowed by events in the South,” Zdenek Kettner, commercial attache at the Czech embassy relayed. “But Beirut is safer than any European country, and the old-fashioned view of Lebanon is bound to change.” — (Albawaba-MEBG)